A recently finished commission was for an ‘opium’ bed. The client was looking for something more aesthetically pleasing than a ‘overstuffed couch’ for the living room and was interested in a Chinese influenced day bed. I started with a copy of Chinese Household Furniture by George N.Kates that I had and used some of its illustrations and descriptions to help draw up a design. The term ‘wooden K’ang‘ is used when describing a day bed or couch.
K’ang is a raised platform in a house, ‘the center of the life of the household’. This style of interior also spread to Japan and developed to become not just an isolated platform but ‘all K’ang‘. In the colder areas of China they were commonly made of brick, had flues and a chimney and were heated with a wood fire in winter. Furniture used on this platform was constructed for people who would be sitting on cushions on the floor and is therefore of much lower height than Western furniture, a table for example being 11.25 inches high.
In the south of China less permanent platforms were used and these are the ‘wooden K’angs’. Their design and use reflecting a continuity with the tradition of the platforms with their low height and heaviness in the legs, these often ending in a design element called ‘horse hoof’ (ma-t’i).
I used some of these ideas to create the legs, with the hoof becoming more like an Ox’s, splaying and turning inwards and matching the heaviness of the frame. The cross frame has a ‘raising clouds’ stepped cutout, the legs continue into the back which curves up into a small filial. The reclaimed Fir was salvaged from the Fairey Technology building at Victoria High school which opened in 1949 and was demolished in 2012. With the finish I wanted to create a sense of antique Rosewood; I first applied potassium permanganate which gives an effective aged look and then used a very red water based cherry stain and then more permanganate and a water based black stain to darken it all down. Sealed with Polymerized Tung oil, dimensions; height 30″ width 38″ length 82″.